“What things are,” my mother writes in the collective family chat. “On my twenty-fifth birthday the coup d’état in Chile against Allende took place. It impacted me and it has always been gravitating in my life. Today, December 19, on Olga’s birthday, Boric’s triumph occurs. Life and its crosses “. Every birthday of my mother, born on September 11, there have been memories for Chilean friends, for the exiles, for the tortured, for the Democrats. That Chile, that Allende, that dark 9/11, has always occupied a space in the family memory.
Chile is a symbol of the beginning of savage neoliberalism. It was chosen as the stage and laboratory of what Naomi Klein would later call the shock doctrine, to apply and ensure the economic model defended by the Chicago Boys. At that time, the supervisors of the project -among them Kissinger in the United States- decided that a coup was necessary to overthrow democracy and the government elected at the polls of Salvador Allende, and thus experience the application of extreme neoliberalism proposed by Milton Friedman. : total liberalization of markets, financial monetarism, privatization of almost all public companies, pensions, health services, protected housing, education, etc.
That context was taken advantage of by large national and foreign companies that had the green light to appropriate the water or large tracts of land where the native Mapuche population lived. In 1988 Pinochet lost the plebiscite in which he considered whether he could remain in power until 1997. One of the supporters who publicly defended Pinochet’s permanence was José Antonio Kast, the far-right candidate who just lost the elections against Boric (on that historic campaign is worth seeing the movie No, released in 2012). That gave way to democracy, but through a transitional model with some similarities to the Spanish one, since there was no clear break with the previous regime and, in the case of Chile, the Pinochet Constitution that allowed that one was maintained. law of the jungle in economics guided by the maxim of every man for himself.
Chile is a symbol because it was the starting gun of the voracious neoliberalism that ended up normalizing in a good part of the planet, being assumed even by supposedly left-wing forces, such as those in Tony Blair’s orbit of the third way. Since that September 11, 1973 in Chile until today there have been numerous examples of coups d’état and financial and political interventions applied under the guise of the economy. The wave of protests in 2011 in several countries was the consequence, among other things, of this application of neoliberal measures.
Take Egypt for example. The fear expressed in the reports of the International Monetary Fund in 2010 and 2011 before a possible departure from power of Hosni Mubarak had to do with the risk that the plans for cuts in public services and the privatization of national companies planned for will not be implemented. the Arab country, and this was expressed by the IMF itself in its analyzes. When a military coup led by Egyptian General Al Sisi subsequently occurred in 2013, Tony Blair wrote an article defending its necessity in the name of the economy, affirming that there were only two options – “intervention or chaos” – and indicating that “a democratic government by itself does not mean an effective government”. The Wall Street Journal also defended that coup, in an editorial in which it claimed generals like Pinochet for today’s Egypt, “who took power amid the chaos but surrounded himself with free market reformists and led a transition towards democracy “.
Forty-eight years after the Pinochet coup, the arrival to the Chilean government of a broad front led by Gabriel Boric and made up of a variety of progressive ideologies that underline the importance of social and children’s rights, feminism and environmentalism -and that they are critical of the transition- opens a door to a new stage in the country but also raises essential questions. One of them has circulated these days in networks: Chile was the cradle of neoliberalism; Could it also be the end of it? In a context of growing inequality at a global level and with a pandemic that has made clear the need for quality public services, the debate is on the table throughout the West. Both in Europe and in the United States, various voices raise the importance of a new economic agreement in which the rights and quality of life of the populations prevail over the possibility of enrichment of a few. Unsurprisingly, the old political forces are reluctant to leave economic greed behind.
The entire Chilean political movement would not have been possible without the enormous social mobilization that began in 2011 with the student movement and multiplied in 2019 with the social outbreak that arose due to the rise in the price of public transport and as an expression of discontent with this neoliberal model. Thousands of people were injured in the 2019 demonstrations – there were also dozens of deaths and hundreds suffered permanent eye damage – the repression was significant and completely normalized from the official level, in that tradition that justifies human rights violations in the name of security, order or the common good. But that did not reverse the social strength of a youth that has also expressed itself through music, culture, art -Anita Tijoux, Nano Stern, Mon Laferte, etc.- or through performances, such as that promoted by the collective feminist Theses, which has been around the world.
One of the most notable characteristics of the Chilean president-elect’s team is the enormous importance it attaches to human rights and its forceful denunciation of human rights violations, whether perpetrated in Israel, Nicaragua or Chile. In the face of the threat of the extreme right, in the face of the fear that repression inoculates, human rights as a flag are a hope. That has been one of the slogans of Boric’s campaign: hope versus fear. The challenges and obstacles that your political project will face will be numerous. Not surprisingly, forty-four percent of the electorate voted for Kast, a Pinochet option. To this must be added the lack of a majority in Congress and Senate and the need for unity to last. But it cannot be denied that the elections of this past December 19 in Chile have represented in some way a new plebiscite in which the Chilean people have shouted loudly no to the inheritance of the Pinochet regime, definitely and with all that this it implies. Beyond Chilean borders, it is important to understand what this electoral result symbolizes, and to take advantage of it.